COUNCIL BLUFFS INCORPORATED.
Before the supremacy of the Mormons was ended, the Gentiles
(as all others were called) were pouring in. In November,
1851, Rev. G. G. Rice started a little church of eight members,
also a Sunday School in a log house on Broadway, a little
west of the intersection of Glenn avenue. This was Congregational
and has grown to be a large and influential society. Mr. Rice
at eighty-six is still with us although not engaged in the
ministry. Rev. Moses Shinn, of the Methodist persuasion, used
to preach and some claimed that he was 'as learned in full
deck poker as in theology, but this was probably a joke.
Courthouse, Council Bluffs
(click on image for full size)
At this time Kanesville contained over seven thousand population,
including its suburb of Carterville, which was east of the
Mosquito creek and extended from that stream to the top of
the hill in a southerly direction.
In '52 matters had reached a point where it seemed desirable
to have a city organization, and early in 1853 a charter was
granted for the city of Council Bluffs, and Kanesville disappeared.
In April of that year the first
HISTORY OF POTTAWATTAMIE COUNTY
charter election was held, which resulted in the election
of Cornelius Voorhis for mayor; W. H. Robinson, recorder;
M. W. Robinson, marshal; S. S. Bayliss, G. G. Rice, S. T.
Carey, L. O. Littlefield, L. M. Klein, J. E. Johnson, J. K.
Cook and J. B. Stutsman, for aldermen; R. L. Douglas, attorney;
Samuel Jacob, engineer, and David DeVol, assessor, and the
frontier camp became a city.
Up to this time the city was mostly along Indian Creek valley.
What is Broadway was an irregular trail and the principal
business within two squares of the corners of Broadway and
Hyde (now First) street.
In the summer of '54 the original town of Council Bluffs
was surveyed, platted and recorded by Mr. Thomas Tostevin,
who later filled the important offices of county surveyor,
city engineer, county treasurer and mayor of the city, and
died August, 1905, at the age of seventy-six years. In 1853
the name of the post office was changed to conform with that
of the city. And in the same year the United States land office
was opened and speculators flocked in armed with sacks of
gold and silver, land warrants and revolvers. H. D. Street
was the first register and Dr. S. M. Ballard the first receiver.
Both were Whigs and received their appointment from President
Fillmore. Eighty-three thousand land warrants had been issued
by the general government to the soldiers of the Mexican war
and thousands of these found their way to this office and
were located on the rich lands of western Iowa. Some by the
soldiers, but by far the largest part by speculators, into
whose hands they had fallen. Dr. Ballard, who had been living
in Iowa City, now moved to this city arid made his home here,
although most of his time after his term of office had expired
was spent on his farm, one of the largest and finest in Audubon
county. With the dissolution of the Whig party he promptly
joined the republicans and became one of its pillars. He was
a man of commanding personality, being six feet six, with
a long beard white as snow, and would command attention in
any assemblage, as was later illustrated at the republican
state convention of 1875. When the announcements of candidates
were being made, several names had been talked over, but that
Kirkwood had not been mentioned. .At the proper time he stepped
into the forum and announced his name. A number of the delegates
arose and demanded by what authority he made the announcement,
and whether he would accept. Without taking his seat he responded;
"In the name of the great republican party I make this
nomination, and in its name and for it I promise the great
war governor will accept." This took the convention by
storm, and he was elected as triumphantly as nominated.
We have seen the county brought to its present limits; the
district court organized; the United States land office opened;
postoffice established; and the frontier camp of Kanesville
transformed into the city of Council Bluffs.
Many new-comers were constantly arriving and in addition
to the merchants previously named came Cornelius Voorhis,
R. P. Snow, Thomas Hinshall, B. R. Pegram and Patrick Murphy
and, a little later, J. L. Forman. But now the out-go of emigrants
exceeded the influx, so that the population of Council Bluffs
was less for a few years than was that of Kanesville.
HISTORY OF POTTAWATTAMIE COUNTY
Among the arrivals of 1850 were G. A. and William Robinson,
who accepted clerkships in stares, but were destined to be
prominent a little later by the first opening of the Robinson
house, which was the leading hotel for same years, and the
other becoming a member of the firm of Babbitt & Robinson.
Notwithstanding the resident population was now decreasing
in the city, the country was settling rapidly after opening
of the land office, and the California and Salt Lake travel
was coming as well as going, and the business continued to
On the 8th of October, 1853, a destructive fire occurred
that destroyed half of the business part of the city, and
but a small part of the goods were saved. These buildings
were lag and were rapidly replaced with frames only to be
consumed again a year later. This time, however, part of them
were rebuilt with brick, a brickyard having been in operation
far same two, years, owned by Benjamin Winchester.
As in most new communities the large majority of the inhabitants
were young or middle aged, and comparatively few had children
of school age, still there were enough to call for the school
marm. There is same uncertainty as to who taught the first,
but, at all events, a man by the name of Brown taught in 1853
in the old log court house, which was for same years afterward
used for the same purpose. James B. Rue and his wife, both
excellent teachers, opened a private school on Washington
avenue, and a little later two sisters, the Misses Rockwell,
opened a select school.
THE FIRST MURDER.
During the spring of 1854, while the city was full of emigrants,
a man named Samuels was camped in the glen on the ground that
is now Glen avenue. A young man named Muer had made arrangements
to go with him, and while Samuels was sleeping, Muer killed
and robbed him. The emigrants swarmed out like bees, captured
the murderer, gave him a fair trial, including the benefit
of attorney, jury and clergy, and when he saw his case was
hopeless, he confessed to Elder Shinn, and directed him to
where he had hidden the money. He was then taken back to the
spot where he had committed the murder, a man climbed an elm
tree, adjusted a rope around a limb with the other end around
Muer's neck. He was made to, stand on the back of a mule which
was led from under, and he died from slow strangulation. The
civil authorities did not interfere and it would probably
have been useless if they had, as the campers were more numerous
than the citizens. Some twenty-five years later, in working
the road about the eastern limit of the city, a plow tore
through an old rotten stump and a lot of gold coin rolled
out and was scrambled for by the laborers. They would not
tell the amount, but this was undoubtedly the money far which
the murder was committed.
For years after this ravine was called by the name of Hang
HISTORY OF POTTAWATTAMIE COUNTY
The second murder was that of Fred Lord by Tom Golden, on
account of difficulty over a load of stone. There were two
attachments against the stone and Lord was hauling it away
by virtue of one, when Golden shot him from ambush. This was
July 10, 1854. Although arrested he was cleared in some manner.
This was at Trader's Point, close to the south line of the
county. The murdered man left a young wife and infant daughter
who are both living at this writing.
PROMINENT EARLY SETTLERS.
Judge W. C. James, who was to become prominent later on,
came here in December, 1852, flat broke, having tramped across
the western part of the state and earned his first dollar
here, cutting up a load or cord wood into stove wood for Dr.
P. J. McMahon. Like most great men, he, had the good fortune
to be born in Ohio, at Elyria, Lorain county, January 1, 1830,
on a farm where he worked during boyhood, then worked his
way through Oberlin College, studied law with Wilson and Wade
in Cleveland. He had also some knowledge of brick laying and
plastering, which he turned to account by building a house
for Enos Lowe, which, with two others, lay claim to being
the first brick building in the city. He entered into politics
with the same zeal that characterized all his movements. He
was elected county judge in the fall of 1856; he also was
a member of the city council at different times and finally
in 1874 was elected mayor of the city. Politically he was
intensely democratic. As a lawyer he did very little at the
bar, but was a shrewd office manager. He was married in 1857
to Miss Annie Van Arnam, who was a gifted singer. By this
union they had three children--two daughters and a son. The
son died in his boyhood. The eldest daughter inherited her
mother's musical talent and became proficient in opera and
sang with success in New York, London and Paris. In 1867 he
and Milton Rogers built the three-story block at the southeast
corner of Main and Broadway, long known as the James block.
He also owned a large farm near what is now the town of Oakland.
He died on Easter Sunday, 1898. His widow at this time is
living in Chicago.
Contemporaneous with Judge James, was Frank Street. He was
of Quaker stock, born July 12, 1819. His parents moved from
Salem, N. J., to Salem, Ohio, from there he settled in Knoxville,
Tenn., where the subject of this sketch was born. From there
he came to Springfield, Ill., and from there to Salem, Henry
county, in this state. Here he remained until he came to Council
Bluffs, in the meantime having studied law in Mt. Pleasant.
Arriving here, he entered actively into politics and became
On the 6th of April, 1854, congress passed an act to enable
the citizens of Council Bluffs to acquire title to their lots.
It authorized Judge Frank Street, under rules prescribed by
the legislature of Iowa to execute deeds to bona fide claimants,
provided these claims were made within one year from the passage
of the act. On the 10th day of May following the approval
of the president of the act, Judge Street made an entry of
HISTORY OF POTTAWATTAMIE COVNTY
tracts in Section 30, that is known as the Old Town Plat,
and also two forties in Section 31 in Township 75, Range 43
west. He also entered for the same use at the same time 240
acres in Section 25, and the same number of acres in Section
36 in Township 75, Range 44. This substantially included the
territory embraced in the Baylis; claim in the Old Town plat,
and in that east of Madison street, so as to include the George
There were many disputes to settle before titles could ill'
all cases be perfected, and Judge Street employed Thomas Tostevin,
a surveyor, to make an accurate survey of the lands held in
trust by him for the claimants as just described, and plat
the respective lines. This was done and Thomas Tostevin's
map has been taken as accurate where a reference is made to
that date. Thomas Tostevin and his brother David were both
masters of their profession and their work has not been confined
to western Iowa, but has extended into Nebraska and, Dakota,
and their work has been considered authority for a half century.
They held alternately the offices of city engineer and county
surveyor for many years. Thomas also held the office of mayor
of this city during 1868-9, and from 1866 to 1868 that of
county treasurer. They were natives of the Isle of Guernsey
in the English Channel, came with their parents to Brooklyn,
N. Y., and as they grew to manhood drifted west. Both married
and reared families. David died-in 1898 and Thomas in August,
1905, but was active in his profession until within a few
weeks of his death. But to return to Judge Frank Street, after
filling the office of county judge he practiced law for several
years, built up an abstract of titles, was an active republican
at the birth of the party and to the end of his life. Was
mayor of city, 1857-8.
At the city election of 1854-5 J. K. Cook was elected mayor,
and J. E. Johnson, S. T. Cary, W. Hepner, C. Voorhis, L. O.
Littlefield, J. B. Stutsman and S. S Bayliss, aldermen, and
W. D. Brown, city marshal.
In the fall of 1853, fol1owing the opening of the U. S. land
office; the first bank was started by Messrs. Green and Ware.
With the inauguration of the Pierce administration, Messrs.
Ballard and Street were retired from the land office and L.
W. Babbitt and Dr. Enos Lowe, democrats, were appointed register
and receiver, respectively.
With the first opening of the office, the first entry made
was by Joseph D. Lane, the second by Jacob Bush, and the third
by Maria Mynster, which included Mynster's addition to Council
During these times the receiver was required to make his
deposits at Dubuque and there being no public conveyance,
it was quite an undertaking to remove the treasure across
In conversation with Mr. Lowe many years after, he related
his experience of one of these trips to the writer. He took
a light, two-horse rig, hired two men that he had every confidence
in and, all being well armed, started with their treasure
on their three-hundred mile trip. There were some twenty-mile
reaches without a house, and in making one or two of these
the thought would occur, "Supposing these two should
prove treacherous, what could I do?" and the thought
oppressed me until I pretended to be sleepy, spread down blankets
and laid down with my head on the treasure
HISTORY OF POTTAWATTAMIE COUNTY
chest and feigned sleep, while watching them with my hand
on my revolver, determined to get the first shot if the emergency
should arise. On nearing a settlement this feeling would vanish,
and I would feel ashamed for having doubted their fidelity.
Later, arrangements were made to deposit at St. Louis, with
which we were connected by steamboat. This was more convenient
for transporting thirty or forty thousand dollars in gold.
At the regular judicial election in 1853, Samuel H, Riddle
was elected judge of the district court, but he, not being
a lawyer, the canvassing board refused him a certificate of
election. His opponent for some reason was also refused, which
created a vacancy. It appearing that Riddle had received a
majority of all the votes cast, Governor Hemstead appointed
him to fill the vacancy. In 1854 he was elected for the full
term, and served with credit, his decisions being approved
by the people and sustained by the supreme court.
He was a native of Kentucky, plain and companionable, was
not an office seeker, but later, at the request of many citizens,
without regard to party, he consented to run for president
of the board of education, was elected by a large majority
and served acceptably.
Among the most noted arrivals during the early part of 1854
was that of Marshall Turley, He came from Galesburg, Illinois,
became interested in a tract of land in connection with William
Gale and Clark E. Carr, which they laid out and platted as
the Galesburg addition to Council Bluffs. He was an original
character, of strong convictions and one of the most progressive
of men, although from his deep and patriarchal appearance
he would be taken for the reverse. He was quite an inventor,
as well as philosopher, and as a public speaker had few equals,
always having a fund of anecdotes to emphasize his remarks.
He seemed to care but little for money and was open and above
board in all his transactions, used no secrecy in his experiments
and as a consequence was cheated out of some valuable patents,
He was undoubtedly the real inventor of the sulky plow, which
has worked wonders in farming. He was intensely anti-slavery
in his political views, and as a natural result became a staunch
republican as that party crystallized, He was also a strong
prohibitionist. He was generous to a fault, In 1863, when
the Cedar Rapids and Missouri River Railroad was approaching
but still holding in uncertainty their point of striking the
river, at last, in July an agent appeared and proposed to
make this their terminus, and have their cars running in here
by the first of January, 1857, providing the people would
donate $30,000 cash, the right-of-way from north line of county
and depot grounds in the city. It had been years since many
of us had heard a locomotive whistle, and although we all
knew it was coming anyway, enthusiasm was aroused, a mass
meeting called at Burhop's Hall, the band got out, and the
hall filled. When the proposal was announced, Mr. Turley arose
and said: "I will give you eighty acres for your depot
purposes." "Which way do the two forties lay,"
the agent asked; "east and west, or north and south?"
"Take your choice," said Turley, The effect was
magical--the rest of the donation was soon subscribed, and
the cars arrived as promised.
HISTORY OF POTTAWATTAMIE COUNTY
In 1853 the great increase in travel seemed to demand better
hotel accommodations than already existed, and S. S. Bayliss
proceeded to build the Pacific House on the spot now occupied
by the John Beno Company's store. It was a plain three-story
brick, with long dining room running back, and at that time
far superior to any of the others here. Its opening on Christmas
with a grand ball at night was quite an event. Additions were
made later, and for a number of years it was the leading hotel
west of Des Moines and north of St. Joseph.
Besides a number of names already mentioned that arrived
in the spring of 1854, who were destined to become prominent,
were those of R. L. Douglas and A. V. Larimer, both lawyers
of ability. Mr. Douglas was a native of Hager3town, Maryland,
and removed to northern Indiana in his youth, where he studied
law, and after practicing there for a number of years came
here to resume it, became active in public affairs, was a
member, of the city council for two terms, then city attorney
two terms and later judge of the circuit court, took an active
part in the organization of the K. C., St. Jo. & C. B.
Railroad, and later in that of the Wabash. Soon after the
close of the war, he went to Florida on account of his health,
started an orange grove, died there in 1877, and his widow
moved to Cleveland, Ohio, where his relatives were living.
Judge Larimer was born, in Center county, Pennsylvania, March
21, 1829. His early education was in the "little log
schoolhouse" during the winter months. Being ambitious,
he secured a scholarship at Alleghany College at Meadville,
Pennsylvania. After studying a year, his means giving out,
he returned to the farm and worked for a time, then went west,
and, like Lincoln, engaged in flatboating for a time and returned
to college, studied law and attended law 1ectures at the law
school of Judge McCartney at Easton, Pennsylvania, came to
Council Bluffs and became active in public affairs. In the
fall of 1854 he became candidate for prosecuting attorney
on the democratic ticket against L. M. Kline, whig, and was
elected. There being a vacancy in the office of county judge,
he was appointed to fill it, holding that position until 1856.
In the latter year he was elected to house of representatives
against B. R. Pegram. He built up a good practice, made good
investments and became wealthy. He was a bachelor, but built
a fine residence and for a time occupied it with his sister.
Later on he went to Sioux City and remained there several
years, then to Omaha, where he died in 1905.
The same year J. M. Palmer came from Chester county, Pennsylvania,
engaged in the real estate business, was elected mayor four
terms, built a three-story block of store buildings and a
public hal1 and engaged for a time in banking, but failed
in the crash of 1857. He married Miss Helen M. Day, of Portage
county, Ohio, a niece of H. H. Field. He had one son, Captain
Charles D. Palmer, a graduate of West Point, who served during
the Philippine war and afterward engaged in banking. One daughter,
Mrs. Charles Stilling, died in 1896, one in infancy and one,
Mrs. Harriet Fell, is now living in, Omaha. He died in 1892.
During 1854, owing to the increasing travel across the Missouri
and the ,prospect of the opening up of Nebraska for settlement,
it seemed necessary
HISTORY OF POTTAWATTAMIE COUNTY
to improve the means of crossing the river, consequently
a company was formed and a charter obtained for the Council
Bluffs and Nebraska Ferry Company.
The incorporators were Dr. Enos Lowe, S. S. Bayliss, Jas.
A. Jackson, General Samuel R. Curtis, Dr. S. M. Ballard, W.
W. Brown, Jesse Williams and J. H. D. Street. Steam ferry
boats were put on, which continued to run until the expiration
of its charter, when bridging of the river made its renewal
unnecessary and it became a thing of the past. On the west
side of the river, on a beautiful plateau, a town was laid
out and platted during the summer of 1854 and named Omaha,
from the Omaha tribe of Indians that occupied that vicinity
but had sold their lands to the government and settled on
a reservati6n some seventy miles north. This embraced some
of the finest lands in the territory. The projectors of this
town were mainly the incorporators of the ferry company, whose
names were given above, and with one or two exceptions residents
of P6ttawattamie county. Even at this early day railroad men
were casting about for ultimately reaching California by rail,
and already a line had been surveyed from Rock Island to Council
Bluffs, and the Platte valley seemed to be the most natural
route. The line surveyed was known as the Mississippi and
Missouri, and was the one mainly adopted in the final construction
of that road across the state.
During the summer of 1854 Sylvanus Dodge with his family
moved out from Massachusetts and located on a beautiful tract
of land on the Elkhorn river in Nebraska. He had two sons,
Granville M: and Nathan P., who were destined to play conspicuous
parts. The former not only in Pottawattamie county, but in
the affairs of the state and nation. The Indians becoming
troublesome, they settled in Council Bluffs where the sons
engaged in banking, the former becoming a member of the firm
of Baldwin & Dodge, while in addition to this he continued
his surveying and engineering as occasion required; while
Nathan P. managed their banking and real estate business.
Both of these ,men are so well known by the entire community
as to make anything said by the writer at this time superfluous.
Both are living and active, though having passed their three
score and ten years.
The winter of 1854-5 was a remarkably mild one, much of the
time like Indian Summer, so much so that on Christmas a party
of young people were starting out from the Robinson House
for a horseback ride, when it came to a sad end by one of
the young ladies being thrown from her horse, which resulted
in her death in a few hours. Years afterward, old timers,
in speaking of the mild winters, would refer to this as the
Ann Floyd winter, that being the name of the lady.
During the preceding year a number of substantial people
arrived and bought out claims and became permanent residents,
among which were D. B. Clark, A. J. Bump arid J. J. Johnson,
who went into farming extensively from two to four miles east
of the city, while another number settled a few miles northeast,
convenient to the Wicks mill.
First Courthouse-Purchased of the Mormons, who used it
as an assembly room. (Click on image for
Some of these were Mormons, but remained after the exodus.
HISTORY OF POTTAWATTAMIE COUNTY
these were William and Henry Garner, George Scofield, Simeon
Graybill, Alex Follett and Alexander Marshall.
These all secured good farms and became wealthy. A mail route
was now established between Des Moines and the Bluffs, the
mail being carried in a small two-horse hack that made the
round trip once week. The first station east being at Silver
Creek, the second at Wheeler's Grove, the latter being kept
by Noah D. Wheeler, and the third just east of the county
line at a little settlement called Indian Town.
Up to this time there were but three voting precincts in
the county, those being Council Bluffs, Wheeler's Grove and
one in what is now Rockford township.
The first marriage of gentiles in Kanesville was that of
M. D. Hardin and Miss Harriet Joiner, January 26, 1852, by
Rev. E.E. Rice. This was appropriate, Mr. Hardin, son of Davis
Hardin, being the first white boy to locate permanently here.
Mrs. Hardin is still with us, Mr. Hardin having died in 1893.
The marriage of James A. Jackson and Miss Henrietta Cook
soon followed, also that of William H. Robinson and Miss Mary
Nebraska was rapidly settling up and although this history
relates to Pottawattamie county, it is so closely interwoven
with that of those adjoining, both in Iowa and Nebraska, that
we are compelled to step over the line occasionally. Claims
were being made constantly by persons from this side, frequently
resulting in violence and bloodshed. A case of this kind occurred
at the old site of Fort Calhoun. A party consisting of Hadley.D.
Johnson, Addison Cochran, A. J. Poppleton, Jas. C. Mitchel,
J. P. Casady, H. C. Purple, A. V. Larimer, and a number of
others of Council Bluffs, all prominent men, had made a claim
for a town site. Sherman Goss, of Rockford township, was also
associated with them. Word came that their claim had been
jumped. It has never been legally determined which claimant
was in the right, but it was true, another party was in actual
possession of the cabin, and was making improvements, and
it was resolved to dislodge him, peaceably if possible, forcibly
if necessary, and, organizing themselves into a little army,
well armed, with Mr. Goss for their captain, they took up
the march. Arriving, they found they had been correctly informed.
The fortress was occupied, but the strength of the garrison
was not known, but chinking had been removed from between
the logs, forming good embrazures. Halting within a few rods
of the cabin, a command to surrender was made, to which, after
a parley, the commandant refused, whereon an order to charge
was made, and as the storming party got within a few feet
the garrison opened fire and Captain Goss fell dead, with
two shots in the breast, and Mr. Purple lost an arm; and a
spectator declared the retreat was the most masterly previous
to that of Bull Run. A little later Council Bluffs parties
had a conflict over a claim over on the Elkhorn in Nebraska.
The claimants were R. P. Snow on the one side and Jesse Winn
on the other. They met in the cabin and a quarrel ensued,
in which Mr. Snow was severely cut and Winn killed. The Snow
side of the story is, that Winn cut him with a knife and his
father-in-law, Mr. Tabor, shot Winn in defense of his
HISTORY OF POTTAWATTAMIE COUNTY
son-in-law. Winn being dead, his story could not be heard,
and their cause has long ago gone to a higher court than any
here, as all the parties have passed over.
A. J. Poppleton, mentioned in connection with the Fort Calhoun
affair, came to the Bluffs in 1854 from the state of New York.
He opened a law office here and boarded at the Pacific House,
where he formed the acquaintance of Miss Sears, a relative
of the proprietor, which resulted in their marriage in 1856,
after which he moved to Omaha, where he rose to the head of
his profession and when the Union Pacific road was built he
became its general solicitor.